COVID Counterpunch

‘A Choice to Mask’: New Mexicans Protest New Masking Mandates

Nathan and Liv Campbell of Albuquerque protested at Vista Del Norte Park Saturday.

About 150 people gathered throughout the day at Vista Del Norte Park in Albuquerque Saturday to protest the governor’s new policies forcing students to wear masks this fall as a condition of school enrollment.

The New Mexico Public Education Department released guidance last week requiring masks for all elementary school students and any middle or high school students who aren’t vaccinated, essentially segregating kids by vaccination status. 

While the partial mandates apply only to public schools for now, the governor signaled at a press conference Thursday that she plans more draconian measures regardless of vaccination status, and will implement them as soon as the federal government gives the go-ahead.

Ted Trujillo, Albuquerque Resident

“I expect the CDC to say everyone wear a mask in indoor environments, in schools in particular, and we will follow suit immediately. I don’t have that [directive yet], but I won’t be unabashed in making that a quick turnaround requirement.” 

— Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, July 29, 2021

Parents and grandparents and kids of all ages turned out to protest the mask policies.

Ted Trujillo, a life-long New Mexican, born-again Christian, and recent great-grandfather said he wanted to show his support for the movement and remind government leaders that they work for the people. 

“They’re always talking about doing things for the people’s good,” Trujillo said, “but several studies have shown that masks don’t do any good.”

For Sarai Ferranti, a wife and mother of three who moved to Albuquerque from California in 2019, just before the pandemic, her opposition is based on common sense.

“Number one, obviously we’ve seen from the very beginning that masks don’t work. They’re not only ineffective, but they can be toxic to some kids.” 

Number two, she said, studies have shown that children have virtually 0% chance of death and are not drivers of the virus. 

“They claim they’re following the science. This is not science.” 

— Sarai Ferranti, Albuquerque resident

Ferranti is right. 

For those who need the government to reassure them of what common sense already says, it has. The CDC’s new guidelines recommending masks indoors regardless of vaccination status are based on studies showing that COVID doesn’t only transmit via emission of “large droplets” but also atomized particles.

In fact, it was Dr. Fauci himself who said last year that a typical mask “is not really effective at keeping out” COVID, because the virus is small enough to pass through the material.

Sarai Ferranti, Albuquerque resident

“It might, however, provide some slight benefit in [keeping] out gross droplets if someone coughs or sneezes on you.”

— Dr. Anthony Fauci, February 05, 2020

While the vast majority of cars drove by honking in support, some screamed expletives and flipped off the protesters.

But Ferranti is no radical. She just wants parents to be able to exercise the freedom to decide for themselves.

“If you want to mask, do,” she said. “I just want people to have a choice. A choice to vaccinate. A choice to mask.”

Albuquerque resident and Rio Grande Foundation President Paul Gessing came out with his wife and three daughters.

“There’s no ending point in sight for COVID-19,” he said. “I want to know what’s going to happen. Are we going to eventually be done with forcing our children to mask up, and us masking up, and living under this crisis?”

He questioned the science behind the governor’s new policies, stating that children are not vulnerable to the virus but do face social and even academic challenges when forced to mask at school.

“I have a kindergartener. She’s still learning the proper use of the English language,” Gessing said. “She wants to see her teacher’s face. These are kids going to new schools, too. It’s very hard to make friends and meet people when you’re behind a mask.” 

“The governor is seemingly taking orders from the CDC, and we want to make sure that she’s not just taking the decisions from Washington, DC. She’s got to represent New Mexicans and what we want.” 

— Paul Gessing, Rio Grande Foundation

Albuquerque resident Chad Barela shared the same sentiment. As a husband and father of two young kids, his concern was government overreach.

Waving an American flag, he said, “I don’t think the government has the right to restrain the rights of its citizens.”

Asked about the governor’s leadership in response to COVID, Barela said, “I don’t think she’s a voice. She’s an echo.”

Chad Barela, Albuquerque resident

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